Big Man, Big Trouble

Copyright © by Len Holman, 1/16/14


  The large, truculent, controlling governor of New Jersey is in a bit of trouble.  His aides (if these people are “aiding” him, what will his enemies do?) had the George Washington Bridge shut down for four days.  This bridge connects New Jersey and New York, is billed as “the world’s busiest bridge,” and totally pissed off commuters, firefighters, EMT drivers and Homeland Security, which worries about these putative terrorist targets.  (Look, if a few well-placed traffic cones can cause such disruption, what will some C-4 do?). 

  Chris Christie gave a press conference, hit all the right apologetic notes, called reporters he has formerly badgered by their first names, said he fired Bridget Kelly, one of his top helpers, and asserted repeatedly he didn’t know such a heinous activity was taking place.  One wonders about that.  New Jersey is not California or Texas, with a sprawling land mass and disparate population, plus they have TV and internet connections there, unlike some islands in Oceania.  So Christie apparently didn’t know, for four days, that there was a problem, and no one stopped by his office and told him that there was. 

  The howls from the mayor of Fort Lee and all those drivers didn’t seem to reach the Governor’s mansion.  He fired people only after incriminating emails surfaced—then, of course, he was outraged.  Christie is, so far, the putative leader in the race for the Republican nomination for president, and must get all this bridge nonsense behind him—he is thought by some to have had some knowledge of it, using the closure to “punish” the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, who refused to endorse him for Christie’s re-election race—even though no one can blame the mayor, a Democrat, for demurring. This assumed political punishment was not only visited on the mayor but a lot of New Jersey drivers and others who use this bridge—a sledgehammer approach to a problem with a fly (Christie won the election by 25 points). 

  In the midst of all this, another scandal has surfaced:  Christie used a high bidder’s commercial (which featured his family) to extol the virtues of New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy and not the lowest bidder’s one (which had no Christies present).  He supposedly used some relief money intended for those who were impacted by the storm to pay for this spot.  If true, this is not just arrogant, not just chutzpah, but blatant tone-deafness akin to Rand Paul’s declaration that extending unemployment benefits does a “disservice” to the recipients.  The governor claims our President told him to run commercials to get New Jersey “back on its feet,” but I somehow doubt the President told him to use relief money (OUR money, the TAXPAYER’S MONEY) to get himself re-elected. 

  There are lots of people in Jersey who are still visiting their shattered, unlivable homes a year after the devastation and they are not being told that their checks are in the mail.  The reverberations of all this extend far beyond New Jersey.  Hillary Clinton must be glued to CNN, as are the other rivals for the hearts and votes of the conservative electorate.   Of course the illogical arguments to get off Christie’s back are out there:  What about Benghazi?  Where was the outrage over that? And the IRS idea to check conservative groups for purity? And Obama’s pledge about keeping insurance plans and doctors?  All these red herrings have nothing to do with the cases at hand.  Christie did get many Dems to support him and he did hug our President, and he does talk tough and straight (well, as far as we know, though now we have our doubts), but he doesn’t govern his own state very well.  His disaster plan was only three pages long and, as we saw, not very workable. 

  How does a person who can’t run his own state expect to run the United States?  Once again, this comes down to the voters, but with lots of media help.  We have all been led to believe that Christie is the tough sheriff who comes along to clean up Tombstone and make the town safe for ma, pa, the schoolmarm, and all the other peaceable citizens who just want to live a quiet life.  Now the media smells blood in the water and is—as always—circling like sharks, going for the jugular, circumspectly in the case of CNN, more exuberantly in the case of MSNBC, but dangerously close for a megalomaniac of Christie’s quality.  All this is enough to make one despair of what has become of our democratic ideals.  Christie is not the only venal, secretive, power-hungry, ambitious-and-damn-the- torpedoes politician in town. 

  While we decry those traitors Bradley, Assange, and Snowden, we also have them to thank for finding out SOME things about what our “leaders” are up to and how far they will go to do it. Our founders thought a free people needed a free press; they thought such a people needed information; they believed we needed transparency and participation in the policies which would affect us.  So far, we have little of that.  With our noses buried in our lighted screens, with our minds flooded with flesh and reality shows and the celebrity culture, we ignore—at our peril—our own well being. 

  Aristotle said, “Man, by nature, desires to know.”  He didn’t say WHAT man desires to know.  As government becomes more labyrinthine, as we see continued examples of cupidity from both sides of the political spectrum, as we ignore, and are ignorant of, even the most blatant and basest of actions (does anyone remember Bell, California?), we recede from the shining city on a hill and frolic mindlessly in the swamps of the flatlands.  Christie, like many another politician, seems intent on saving  and defending only his reputation and thus his possible political future.  The people of New Jersey?    Fugeddaboutit!


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